Thursday, April 13, 2006

There are two approaches I am pondering at the moment around my choreographic practice:

1) Setting movement in the body so deeply (through the process of repetition --- like the yogic sun salutation for example) that the mind becomes ‘free’.
2) Occupying the mind so that the movement can become ‘free’ (Jonathan Burrows uses this approach – he will tie up the mind in the process of problem solving so that the act of judging oneself whilst dancing decreases).

Both approaches presuppose that there is an advanced level of training in the body or that the movement being performed has entered the ‘habit body’ (to use Merleau-Ponty’s term).

What I want to strip away in the act of dancing is ego-consciousness which is at the root of performance personas. Performance persona types are as varied and numerous as there are personality types but performers/dancers tend to adopt (and at various points in one’s career the performance persona may change) a performance persona which correlates to the type of training the performer is immersed in. For example, jazz dancers may adopt a performance persona of high self-confidence, sometimes lacquered with an emphasis on sexuality and high energy.
At the opposing end of the spectrum are the ‘contemporary dance improvisers’ who often share a performance persona which is ‘cool’ – where the emphasis whilst performing is to exude a sense ‘easy-going’ and/or ‘all excepting’. In this performance persona the real unpreparedness and panic brought on from the adrenaline high of the act of performing is hidden from the audience’s view. This performance persona therefore is as false as that of the jazz dancer.
How do we know when we are seeing the real person?
This awareness of performance personas is only scratching the surface of what Japanese philosopher Yasuo Yuasa refers to as ‘the emotion-instinct circuit’. Shigenori Nagatomo gives a description of this circuit in his Introduction in Yuasa’s book: The Body, Self-Cultivation and Ki-Energy as: …[Yuasa] considers this circuit essential for maintaining the life of a body, for without its functioning life ceases. This circuit converts the stimulus received through a sensory organ into an emotional response (pleasure or pain) or information about stress, which affect the activity of the visceral organs…this circuit holistically affects the whole person” (1993:xvii).

These are just some glimpses of my thoughts at the moment -- more on performance personas to come I think…
God, this website is in danger of becoming a philosophical rant!


Blogger April said...

I realise that the way these two approaches are presented is problematic. It looks like they are written from a dualist perspective. I assure you, I am no dualist! What I am trying to articulate is a shifting of attention. What I am not advocting is a divide between body and mind. This is not possible.

4:41 PM  
Blogger K said...

Hi April,
First of all I must say that what you wrote about the two approaches is very interesting.
Though becoz of the duality, somewhere in the middle I was left confused.
I am a dancer from India, not a professional one though. Did alot of dancing in school and college but could not pursue it professionally. Currently I am training with Shiamak Davar's Institute In New Delhi. Unfortunately in my country the western forms of dance have not yet been able to provide anything more than just bread and butter on the table. Though Bollywood is very happening in India and many western dancers are making a successful career out of it as well but for that I would have to shift base to Mumbai, previously known as Bombay.
Neway, now talking about your approaches - I feel that as a dancer especially when I am learning from others and not doing my own choreo, I tend to give full concentration on the steps I do. Like you said, probably if one rehearses to the extent that it dance movements flows automatically in the system
then one can afford to not think about it and occupy the mind with other thoughts so movemenst are free.
I tend to concentrate fully only on my performance and on the response of the audience. I concentrate to the extent that when I wud come off stage and my dance team mates wud discuss things that happened in the wings - and I wud not know nething about wot went on as I only concentrated on the dance. I would like to try out your approach but don't knw if it wud work for me. It works for Jonathon Burrows though!

I love wot you do and wish I am where you are one day.
Keep it up and all the best for your upcoming presentation.

Regards and bestw ishes

3:12 PM  

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